With triple-digit temperatures being recorded in many parts of the country already this month, it’s a very appropriate time to discuss heat issues and ways to train in the heat without causing heat-related illnesses. Let’s start with a key point: Heat-related illnesses are 100% preventable. That’s right—it is the one thing athletic trainers and other medical professionals come across that can be stopped before it starts.
Key information and education needs to be relayed to athletes, parents & coaches—if all three groups are on the same page, then the chances of bad things happening go WAY down.
-Drink fluids throughout the entire day: Never pass a water fountain without getting a drink.
-Take in 17-20 ounces of fluids while at home before a game: Take in another 7-10 ounces of fluids while on the way to practice or a game. Take in 28-40 ounces of fluids while participating in practice or a game, and take in 20 ounces of fluid per each pound of weight lost during practice or a game. You should be taking in up to 80 ounces of fluids for each practice or game.
-Keep up with urination habits: You should be urinating frequently. If you are not urinating, you are in grave danger of becoming a heat casualty. Keep up with the color of your urine. If it is a light yellow to a dark yellow color, you are already dehydrated. Take in fluids immediately.
-Take note of you how you feel: If you notice you are having trouble focusing, if you feel sick, or are not feeling right, tell someone. Make sure it is legitimate, and do not use this as an excuse to get out of practice.
-Eating Habits: Make sure your athlete is eating well-balanced meals before and after practice. Hydrating yourself is great, but you must eat right as well. Make sure you are eating the right kind of meals and snacks, as well as taking in the proper types of hydration. Any kind of fruit is great. Your body will use the sugars and convert them into fuel your body can use. When playing sports, you need to ingest more carbohydrates than proteins and fats. Your body is using and building muscle when you are active, so you need to help your muscles by taking in high carbohydrate meals.
There are a lot of water and hydration properties in fruit. For instance, if you eat an apple, you are taking in the fluids which will help rehydrate your body. You also need to take in high fiber meals. Eat a lot of pasta and breads. High carbohydrate and low protein drinks are fine. You need more carbohydrates than you need protein. Studies have proven that low fat chocolate milk is better for you than sports drinks like Gatorade when used as a recovery drink. It has the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
-Monitor the weather: Adopt a chart to help determine the difference between relative temperatures versus the relative humidity. Know when you should have your athletes take off their pads and helmets. Know when you should have your athletes remove their shirts, and know when you should cancel practice altogether.
-Take care of yourself before taking care of your athletes: If you as a coach are struggling to keep focus and struggling with the heat, you can't expect to be able to keep a close eye on your athletes.
-Hire an athletic trainer (AT), or have someone designated to keep an eye on the athletes, keep up with preventive measures, and have a plan of action if a situation arises. Every school needs to look into having a certified athletic trainer. Athletic Trainers are trained to see things that coaches may not be able to see. ATs see things on a day-to-day basis, and they know what to look for. Plus, they can relieve much of the burden of preparing for heat issues and decrease your liability.
-Have a designated break plan: it is recommended to take breaks every 20 minutes. Make sure your athletes have ample time to get out of their helmets and pads if you are in football. Give them time to cool off and take in fluids.
-Take notice of symptoms: Ask your athletes about the color of their urine. If their urine is light yellow to dark yellow, they are already dehydrated. Make sure they get fluids, and if their urine is very dark, hold them out of practice and make them hydrate themselves.
-Weigh athletes before and after practice and games: If an athlete loses more than 5% of their body weight during a practice, they are at an elevated risk to become a heat casualty. Your athlete needs to ingest 20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during practice or a game. The athlete needs to ingest the proper amount of fluids within two hours of the completion of practice.
-Keep an eye out for your heavy sweaters: The athletes on your team who sweat more than others, and/or have salt rings on their clothing are at a bigger risk for cramps, organ failure, and death. Make sure they are taking in more fluids, and adding more salt to their diet.
-Game day officials: Keep an eye on the officials as well. They may not have been preparing themselves for the heat they will endure while calling a game. Also have a plan with the officials in place in case of a heat related emergency on the field or the sidelines.
-Gyms can be bad also: it’s not just out on the field; in fact, a hot and stuffy gym in the summer can be worse than outside because there’s no wind. If you are in charge of an indoor practice, then take similar precautions.
-No athlete should ever be pushed when needing a break: Consider all athletes are not the same. Some may need more hydration than others. Do not push athletes if they show signs of dehydration.
-No retaliation: Athletes should never be punished for requesting or needing extra hydration breaks.
-Parents should realize their athlete is practicing and playing in grave conditions: The high temperatures athletes play and practice in during the summer can take a person's life if the proper precautions are not taken.
-Take note of any stress their athlete may be under: Discuss any matter they may be facing and help to relieve the stress.
-Do not allow your athlete to over-train: Don't go lift weights or go swimming after practice. These two things expose your body to more heat and cause you to exert more energy than you need to exert.
-Sleep Habits: Make sure your athlete is getting a good night sleep, and is waking up in time to get a good breakfast. Athletes participating in morning workouts should be in bed by 9PM, and should be awakened with plenty of time to take in a good balanced breakfast before heading off to school or practice.